Album Review: -(16)- – ‘Dream Squasher’

Keeping the hate alive

Unfortunately, Los Angeles stoner/sludge/doom veterans –(16)– have toiled in part-time obscurity for most of their existence. Fortunately, the graybeards still manage to vomit forth some of the most misanthropic, miserable and black-hearted metal this side of a thrice-divorced, needle-sharing, scrapyard-squatting suicidal junkie. That the perpetual double barrel the band has held at society’s temple has been historically paired with rhythmic thunder, loping down-picked crush, bluesy strut and the sound of Cris Jerue’s vocal cords ligaturing his aorta has created a nearly 30-year rallying cry for the disenfranchised, frustrated and fed-up.

As unlikely as it may seem, however, –(16)– are about more than hating everyone from those in the seats of power to those clogging up the passing lane. While there are few bands happier at nature’s present herd thinning, their manifestation of misery is coupled with riffs still designed to get fists pumping. The clobber of opener “Candy in Spanish” and the slo-mo shake ‘n’ pummel of “Acid Tongue” won’t be a revelation to fans of Fudge Tunnel, Crowbar or Eyehategod, but heaps of soulful conviction target the listener’s breadbasket with inarguable impact before “Me and the Dog Die Together” picks up the pace with a tightly executed, swaggering haze and wailing lead guitar bends.

Dream Squasher also corrupts other musical modes and moods—southern rock organ and bathtub gin clean vocals elevate “Sadlands”; Sabbathian harp honking (performed by our own Justin Norton) slithers from the pores of “Agora (Killed by a Mountain Lion)”; “Ride the Waves” is full-on hardcore punk with awesome bass driving the half-time chorus. There’s even off-time accenting akin to Dillinger mixing sludge and winding proto-metal boogie around the archery arrow deadliness of “Harvester of Fabrication,” demonstrating how animosity comes from the heart and the mind.

Review taken from the July 2020 issue of Decibel, which is available here